Community TV forced onto internet based broadcasting

Community TV forced onto internet based broadcasting - 25th September 2014

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One of the Australian Government’s latest decisions has been to not-so-gently advise Australia’s five Community TV stations their bandwidth is going to be purloined off them and sent to the highest bidder.

They have been told they must move to internet broadcasting, which somehow Malcolm Turnbull, the relevant Minister believes will also increase their audience.

Various numbers and sources are quoted to strengthen the case, the most damning supposedly that over the last 5 years the annual daily audience in prime time – designated as 6pm to midnight – is only 6000 or so when the total amount of TV viewers is around 15 million.

Hardly stellar numbers on the surface. The problem is, having been involved in Community broadcasting, the size of the audience is not the purpose behind the raison d’etre of Community TV.

It is designed for a number of purposes; a major one is to let everyday people get to learn about broadcasting and put to air programs that would otherwise not be made as commercial TV stations wouldn’t use them as they are not commercially viable.

But that doesn’t make them any less important.

Turnbull claims that going internet based will increase the audience, but that also doesn’t really address the reasons for CTV. If that were so, would ‘normal’ stations also be broadcasting via the medium? Some would say they are with the likes of iView and other ‘catch-up’ channels, but in reality, these are more a substitute for DVDs and other mediums in a digital age than actual ‘broadcasting’.

Then there is the argument around getting the bandwidth back and using it for more noble purposes. Yeah right. The highest bidder is not necessarily going to be all altruistic and become another HBO. The presence of those damned shopping channels is proof of that.

I wonder how many people actually watch those to put that side of things into perspective.

Also not seemingly taken into account is that not everyone who watches CTV has internet connectivity. And even if they do, the cost of the bandwidth in terms of data usage user pays would probably be prohibitive, especially if you live in a low signal area. Even here on the Gold Coast, a bit further down the road has no ADSL, so again from experience, having to use wireless quickly breaks the bank.

CTV has found numerous talents who have gone on to much bigger and better things:, Rove McManus, Amy Parks, Greg Tingle, Hamish and Andy's Hamish Blake and Andy Lee, Adam Richard, Peter Helliar, Merrick and Rosso's Merrick Watts and Tim Ross, Jo Stanley, Darren Chau, Corinne Grant, Jamie McDonald, Tom Ballard, Tommy Little, Dave Thornton and Kim Hope all got their start from C31 in Melbourne for example.

There’s testament to the importance of CTV right there as a training ground with no peer.

Finally, the changeover from digital broadcasting to internet based might be prohibitive for some or even all of the existing CTV stations. The changeover to digital from analogue had to be subsidised by the Government and all that expense would be going to nought if this move to internet broadcasting is enforced.

In short, if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it. It’s hard not to be cynical and think this is all about the Government smacking its chops at the prospect of all that lovely lolly to be gained from the bandwidth sell off.

(PC Magazine)